During the last three years I have become more observant of the negative effects our technological, sedentary culture has had on our collective posture. I have also learned how interconnected our posture is with the rest of our bodily functions (like breathing, digestion, circulation, etc.) And I have gradually improved my own posture through a number of helpful exercises.
My Posture Story
After we moved to Santa Barbara 3 years ago, I started to experience a number of physical issues that led me to a wonderful chiropractor, Dr. Nick Araza from Santa Barbara Family Chiropractic. I am a firm believer in the power of chiropractic and have been to a variety of practitioners over the years, but I have found that they each have different emphases and techniques that may or may not be relevant or helpful to each individual. Just like any medical professional, you have to shop around. What I love about Dr. Araza, is that he is the first chiropractor that took direct aim at correcting my posture and the way I move my body. He is also a very holistic and educationally-minded doctor, who wants his clients to learn to live a healthier, overall lifestyle as well as be healed.
He started by taking a picture of the side of me in a relaxed position. Then he connected the points on my body that should be directly aligned on top of one another (ear, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle.) But after many years of nursing babies, baby wearing, washing dishes over the sink, hovering over the computer, slumping while driving, just plain sitting (which is killing us), and good ol’ gravity, etc. my shoulders were slumped, my neck hung forward, my backside was tucked forward because that’s the only way my lower back felt secure and I was in pain. I was a mess!
So I committed to 8 months of regular chiropractic adjustments and exercises (spinal hygiene, life extensions, and proper squatting) which I continue to do (when I remember!) I also changed the way I move (i.e. rotating thumbs away from the body when standing and walking) and sleep (no pillow when I’m on my back, knee and neck pillow when I’m on my side, and uncurling out of the natural fetal position).
Though it’s difficult to see from the photos above, the difference has been remarkable.
My lower back and core feels more secure than it has in years, my legs are stronger from squatting to pick things up off the floor (instead of bending over unconfidently), and my after-birth incontinence is gone (and NOT because of kegels). I can jump on a trampoline, zumba, and sneeze with the best of them! I also had two recent miscarriages, and after specifically adjusting the vertebrae in my lower back that protects (and was pinching) the nerves that run to my reproductive organs, I was pregnant and miscarriage-free!
It’s a daily effort to maintain good posture and though I’m not always consistent with my exercises and stretches, my postural awareness has increased exponentially. I constantly re-correct my posture, walk with more confidence and I know that I will age with strength.
I’ve also started paying attention to my kids’ posture. There is a disturbing trend of poor posture in children these days thanks to heavy back packs, looking down at electronic devices, car seats, strollers, and even self-esteem. Poor posture has even been noted in facial construction (lips constantly apart, weak chin, underdeveloped jaws, bent nose) and can be the result of mouth breathing as the head position moves forward to facilitate oral breathing. This can lead to future problems like snoring, sleep apnea, swollen nasal passages and overall skeletal and functional changes.
My son, though very athletic, struggles with good posture. He looks at the ground a lot when he walks, his head already hangs forward a bit, his shoulders have a slight forward curve and he sometimes sits with a slump. I hope to invest in chiropractic correction for him in the near future, but until then, he has “posture exercises” as one of his daily chores.
Sometimes he hangs his head off the couch to make up for the forward motion of his neck and sometimes he will do life extensions. I also pray a blessing over him everyday that, like Jesus (as mentioned in Luke 2:52), he would “grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.”
So how can we begin to correct our poor posture?
Exercise and Position Ideas
– Read, write, view screens, etc. on your belly as much as possible, causing your neck to strengthen and hold up your head.
– Squat (correctly) as much as possible. You may have noticed that squatting is very natural to toddlers, but completely stumps us adults once we grow up and lose our flexibility and strength. This link goes into great detail on the correct form as well as all the benefits of squatting. Not to mention, it helps tremendously with, um, pooping. If you think about it, toilet’s have only been around for so long…
– While walking, look forward instead of down. Paleo Crossfit folks believe this is the way the Geico Caveman walked to keep an eye out along the horizon for anything that might want to eat him for lunch. Since we don’t have that worry anymore, we’ve lost our awareness of what’s around us. Besides the sky and trees are a lot more beautiful than the concrete…
– Stand with your heart up. Tilting your heart toward the sky will cause you to inhale deeply while allowing you to walk tall without over-arching your back or sticking your chest out immodestly. It also takes the pressure off all of those internal organs allowing them to work more freely.
– Stand with your thumbs out. When your hands naturally fall to your side, you may notice your thumbs tend to face your body, like a primate. Rotating them outward naturally uncurls your forward slumping shoulders without unnaturally arching your back.
– When sitting, avoid resting against the back of your seat and hold the upper half of your body up using your own core muscles with a slight arch in your lower back. This has started to become a habit when I drive and we now have the opportunity to practice this on the backless benches at our dinner table. I find that sitting cross legged – especially when I was pregnant – helps with maintaining this position.
– Overall, keep moving! Dr. Nick says, “the best position is the next position.” Avoid staying in the same position for long periods of time, and do spinal hygiene or life extension exercises to make up for sedentary times. If you have to be at a desk for work, consider ergonomic seating, a standing desk, or my personal favorite – a treadmill desk! (I have actually made one myself, but have yet to get into the habit of using it because the baby sleeps in our room at night!)
But one of my favorite realizations that I have made in this “Posture Journey” is the relationship between our posture and our spiritual experience.
I have grown in my worship experience over the years and find that the Life Extension exercises (hands outstretched in a “Y”, “W”, “T” and “L” position – “You Will Thrive Longer”) are all postures of worship that focus our attention on God. When are our hearts are lifted toward heaven and our eyes are on things above (and not on earthly things), we are positioned to receive what God has for us. Not to mention that outstretched arms visually remind us of our Savior’s loving sacrifice on the cross for us.
Posture Related Scriptures
By no means does good posture mean we shouldn’t bow our heads in reverence or kneel in humility, but there are also scriptural references to hanging one’s head in shame or guilt (Ezra 9:6, Job 10:15). Poor posture can often be the physical manifestation of a poor understanding of ourselves’ relationship to God.
May we approach the throne of grace with confidence (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16), holding our hands up in expectation of grace and forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7), and taking in the light of God’s kind face shining on us (Psalm 4:6).
Psalm 28:2 “Hear the voice of my supplications, as I cry to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.”
Psalm 63:3-4 “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name.”
Psalm 28:2: “Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help; as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.”
Lamentations 3:41 “Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.”
Psalm 3:3 “You, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
“Spiritual Posture” Resources
Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God – Join Christians throughout the ages who used their entire being as a prayer by practicing various postures – including many modeled in Scripture.
PraiseMoves Alphabetics (DVD) – Move through some of the Bible’s most inspiring passages as you gently stretch to postures which beautifully mirror the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.
Yoga Prayer (DVD) – Catholic Priest and certified Kripalu yoga teacher, Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP, has written multiple books on body prayer and now combines his loves into a peaceful exercise routine.
Recommended Resources on Corrective Posture Exercises
Fit2Be Studio – a family friendly online gym with over 100 “tummy safe” exercise routines run by a mom who specializes in fixing diastasis (the separation of the abdominal connective tissues) that causes the “pregnant pooch.” (Hint: NOT crunches)
Katy Says Alignment Matters! – This gal starts with posture from the feet up and has a well-reviewed book and tens of thousands of followers.
Ttapp workout videos – Teresa Tapp has more than just posture strengthening in her videos, she has exercises to keep even fingers and toes nimble through the golden years. One of the most unique and seemingly proven exercise regiments that I’ve ever seen.
Santa Barbara Family Chiropractic – For my local friends, I would highly recommend Dr. Nick Araza. Tell him I said hi!
What is the state of your posture and how are you going to improve it?
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Melanie, this was excellent! Full of wisdom and knowledge. It’s worth revisiting on a regular basis. Love Dad
Aw, thanks, Dad! There were a lot of good reminders for me and I even learned new things putting it together. =)
You are phenomenal, Melanie. What do you do in your spare time? Go for it, girl! Missing you this last week. See you June 1st. BTW, my chiropractor is Kevin English, a dedicated Christian and wonderful teacher about the body as well. I wonder if her and yours know each other. Wouldn’t that be a kick? Love, Sandie
This if food for thought all right. I’m sitting at the computer realizing that my back is slumped and I’ve straightened myself. It seems a bit of an exercise to straighten myself while sitting, I mean a little extra effort, but I’m sure is good for me in the long run. Thanks.
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